Oak Park poised to reinstate environmental manager

Efforts at getting other municipalities to help pay fails

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Oak Park has gone more than three years without its environmental sustainability manager, having chosen to eliminate funding for the position when the position became vacant in 2014.

Since then, the village has worked to encourage neighboring communities and other taxing bodies, such as the local school districts and the Park District of Oak Park, to help fund the position. 

Oak Park called the plan i-ECO, an acronym for intergovernmental community organization. But at Monday night's village board meeting, trustees inched closer to abandoning the idea is now poised to return to funding the sustainability manager position. 

In 2016, the village issued a request for qualifications for environmental organizations to help establish i-ECO and received two responses.

"While both respondents offered unique professional services to support the formations of a not-for-profit organization along with development of mission, vision, organizational structure, operating budget and legal structure, the associated fees were significantly different," according to the village. "Specifically the base fees for services ranged from $59,535 to $102,815."

The time needed to form this kind of not-for-profit organization made the village reconsider this approach and consider returning to its original strategy of funding a full-time position at Village Hall.

Trustee Colette Lueck voiced opposition to reinstating the position because the ordinance did not clearly define what the position would entail.

"There's no way I can vote for this because I don't know what this person is supposed to do," she said.

Nick Bridge, chairman of the village's Energy & Environment Commission, said environmental initiatives in the village have "lain fallow because of a lack of staffing" since the position was eliminated.

He said other taxing bodies were less incented to participate because their focus – running the schools and parks, for instance – is much narrower than that of the village. 

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

Reader Comments

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Christina Sellis Loranz  

Posted: April 26th, 2017 12:16 AM

Just ONE of the many accomplishments of the sustainability manager during her short tenure was the establishment of the electricity aggregation program (not remembering the full name right now), which saved Oak Parkers almost $5 million on our electric bills not to mention offering a 100% renewable energy option. Let's try not to be so short sighted with how we spend our tax dollars.

Bridgett Baron  

Posted: April 22nd, 2017 10:36 PM

Caroyln, I think Trustee Lueck is very aware, since she sat on the Board when the position existed. Her issue, as this news story states, is that the ordinance, the official document presented to the current Board, "did not clearly define what the position would entail."

Carolyn Cullen  

Posted: April 22nd, 2017 3:38 PM

Perhaps one board member was unaware of the accomplishments of the sustainability manager, but they were many and the village needs to get back to that, saving money through energy conservation and bringing in grant funding. Please see this for history: http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/12-9-2014/Why-a-sustainability-manager-made-sense-in-Oak-Park/

Robert Milstein from Oak Park Il  

Posted: April 21st, 2017 4:50 PM

So this person sustains the environment? What will he or she be doing? The Board needs to put out the job description for public review. Then show us the cost. What are the pros of filling the slot. Cons? Give the public a reason to support this hiring.

Nick Polido  

Posted: April 20th, 2017 11:54 AM

We can only wish that many of our Village Trustees forward thinking would only lain fallow as well.....

Josh Vanderberg  

Posted: April 20th, 2017 8:11 AM

"He said other taxing bodies were less incented to participate because their focus ?" running the schools and parks, for instance ?" is much narrower than that of the village." Yes, and I hope the village government's incentive is to run the city, not save the planet. By all means, they should make responsible, sustainable choices as they run the city, but I don't think you need an overpaid sustainability manager for that.

Chris Costello  

Posted: April 20th, 2017 8:10 AM

Don't forget our "Mayor" raised property taxes too.

David Gulbransen  

Posted: April 19th, 2017 3:29 PM

Makes perfect sense... "Why, here's a position that we've done without for three years, no one is quite sure what they will do, and other OP area taxing bodies didn't feel it was a position worth funding. So let's reinstate it!!"

Bruce Kline  

Posted: April 18th, 2017 3:27 PM

I agree Tom. This Village behaves like an addict: rather than craving drugs it craves spending. It just can not help itself. Throw a green label on some undefined task or job and its spend, spend, spend.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: April 18th, 2017 3:03 PM

So the village saved over $300,000 by not having this position on the payroll the last three years, and now they just have to have it, even though they have no clue as to what it is, what the person does. Where does one apply for this job because it sounds really easy. What a waste they are inching their way towards.

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